June 23rd, 2011
02:57 PM ET

U.S. announces new sanctions on Iranian companies

The United States announced sanctions against two Iranian commercial enterprises Thursday as part of an effort to increase pressure on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and curb its reach into the broader Iranian economy to finance its illicit activities.

The move against Tidewater Middle East Co., a port operating company owned by the IRGC, and Iran Air, Iran's national airline carrier, were made under the authority of an executive order aimed at freezing the assets of entities involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and their supporters. The sanctions isolate the companies from U.S. commercial and financial systems, and allow the U.S. government to penalize companies who continue to do business with the sanctioned companies.

"The IRGC's illicit activities and its increasing displacement of the legitimate Iranian private sector in major strategic industries, including in the commercial and energy sectors, are deeply troubling," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a joint statement announcing the sanctions. "The IRGC also serves as the domestic "enforcer" for the Iranian regime, continues to play an important proliferation role by orchestrating the import and export of prohibited items to and from Iran, is involved in support of terrorism throughout the region, and is responsible for serious human rights abuses against peaceful Iranian protestors and other opposition participants."

June 23rd, 2011
02:39 PM ET

Official: Materials Obama mentioned show bin Laden’s concern over al Qaeda’s image

A U.S. official says letters found at the compound in Abbottabad suggest that Osama bin Laden was very concerned that the West had been able to “reframe” al Qaeda’s image. For instance, the officials said, bin Laden was worried that the West had shortened the name of the group from al Qaeda al Jihad, which he believed would prevent Muslims from identifying with the group.

The official says letters between Ayman al Zawahiri and bin Laden also show that bin Laden was very concerned that al Qaeda in Iraq was damaging al Qaeda’s image with attacks that killed civilians.

In addition, says the official, senior figures in al Qaeda expressed concern that the organization had lost a lot of its top leadership over the past two or three years, and that their bench of seasoned skilled leaders wasn’t that deep.

The official characterizes the letters as “relatively recent,” and says some were written earlier this year.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Al-Zawahiri • Osama bin Laden
June 23rd, 2011
12:32 PM ET

Bill introduced in House to defund Libya operations

The House will consider a bill this week to restrict funding for U.S. operations in Libya unless the president receives prior authorization from Congress.

The bill, introduced by House Armed Services and Intelligence Committee member Rep. Tom Rooney, seeks to limit the funding of U.S. participation in NATO’s operation Unified Protector except in cases of search and rescue, surveillance, aerial refueling and operational planning.  

“The President has ignored the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution, but he cannot ignore a lack of funding,” Rooney said. “Only Congress has the power to declare war and the power of the purse, and my bill exercises both of those powers by blocking funds for the war in Libya unless the President receives Congressional authorization.”

The House is expected to vote on the legislation as early as Friday.

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Filed under: Congress • Libya • Military • NATO
June 23rd, 2011
11:59 AM ET

Marine reservist charged with firing at military installations

FBI press release: Yonathan Melaku, 22, of Alexandria, Va., has been charged with destruction of property and firearm violations involving five separate shootings at military installations in Northern Virginia between October and November 2010.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement.

If convicted, Melaku faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each of the two willfully injuring the property of the United States charges and a total mandatory minimum of 35 years and a maximum of life in prison if he is convicted of both use of a firearm during a crime of violence charges.

“Today’s charges allege a long-term pattern of violent behavior against the U.S. military that escalated until his detention last Friday,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “The affidavit states that what began as a drive-by shooting at the National Museum of the Marine Corps grew to a series of armed attacks targeting multiple military installations seeking to shut them down. It culminated with Mr. Melaku’s apprehension near the Pentagon in possession of a backpack containing ammonium nitrate, one of the components used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.”

The affidavit alleges that law enforcement found a videotape in Melaku’s bedroom that shows Melaku in an automobile driving near what appears to be the U.S. Marine Corps Heritage Museum and repeatedly firing a handgun out the passenger-side window. Melaku allegedly made numerous statements on the video, including “That’s my target. That’s the military building. It’s going to be attacked” and at the conclusion of multiple shots exclaiming “Allahu Akbar.”

The U.S. Marine Corps reports that Melaku joined the Marine Corps Reserve on Sept. 4, 2007, and is currently listed as a Marine Corps reservist .

Filed under: Security Brief
June 23rd, 2011
08:29 AM ET

Security brief – June 23, 2011

Compiled by Tim Lister

Afghanistan Drawdown: Obama stresses decline of al Qaeda......No mention of Petraeus....GOP response: "flexibility needed"....Dems wanted more....UK and France plan similar cuts

Analysis: drawdown must be matched with peace drive.....eastern Afghanistan now "out of reach"....few savings from troop cuts

Pakistan slams NATO for abandoning eastern Afghanistan

Pakistan: more officers investigated for ties to militants

Yemen: US demands immediate transition....Saleh "not returning soon" say diplomats

Yemen: opposition leader promises effective war against terrorism

Syrian troops move on border village; EU plans more sanctions

Libya: NATO in action close to Misrata as calls for ceasefire grow

Bahrain: Fury at life sentences for opposition activists


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Filed under: Security Brief